With the downturn in the economy, you’ll occasionally hear stories about thieves who steal public property – such as manhole covers – and sell the materials to scrap yards.
Rarely do you hear of government employees who are charged with similar crimes. But now nine Northern Illinois University employees have been charged in, as the Chicago Tribune describes:
“An alleged scheme to sell university scrap materials and deposit the proceeds in a private bank account.”
The Tribune piece revealed other details:
“The investigation found that employees allegedly sold university scrap materials, including those from campus building renovations, and used the money as a slush fund for holiday parties, retirement celebrations and similar social uses.
At least $13,000 had been deposited into the account in the past six years, and about $2,100 was in it when it was closed in August and the balance transferred to the university's general fund, authorities said.”
On Monday, ex-NIU Associate Vice President Robert Albanese pleaded guilty to violating the State Property Control Act. He was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision and fined.
Albanese avoided charges of felony theft and felony official misconduct.
Albanese was the supervisor of the eight other NIU employees who still face charges in relation to case. Six of the employees have already returned to work, while two others remain on paid leave.
Seems like a slap on the wrist to me.
A search of the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Salary & Benefits Database showed that for fiscal year 2012, Albanese had a base salary of $196,845.72, with additional undisclosed compensation of $2,481.90.
With a high salary like that, it’s hard to use poverty as an excuse for stealing public property.
Brian Costin is Director of Government Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute